It’s 6:45am before our train pulls into the Chiang Mai station. This is a bad thing, because it means our 16 hour train ride has turned into an 18 hour train ride, but kinda a good thing because it means we are not going to be roaming around the city looking for a place to stay in the dark.
Around 4:30am I still have not slept, so I crawl down from my sleeper and go to join Ilona in her bottom bunk where she is also lying awake. We sit and talk as the sky becomes brighter, both dozing off for a few minutes here and there, until we finally arrive in Chiang Mai. I am just happy that train ride is over. Chiang Mai is lovely. Very green and lush, the city has a lot of old architecture and of course, lots of temples. We go to an information point at the train station and ask them to direct us to a good place for backpackers. They suggest a place in the old Chiang Mai city which has a pool, lots of backpackers, and is only 250 baht ($8) a night. Exhausted, and happy to pay 4 dollars each to sleep somewhere, we go for it. We get there and realize we’ve made a great decision because it’s adorable. Similar to the great little place where we stayed in Baga Beach, this one is quirky and charming. Just adorable. We nap until noon, and take a well-deserved and well-needed shower, to get ready to go visit a Thai market.
We grab a tuk tuk down to the market area, where they have loads of fresh fish (not so nice smelling), clothes (better smelling than the fish), as well as flowers and fruit (nice smelling). We take a quick walk in and around the market stalls looking for nothing in particular, and then find ourselves walking down a busy street (not Khaosan Road-level, but still busy) lined with clothing shops. We stop in basically all of them, but most of the shops have a “one size fits all” style of clothing, which is geared towards tiny Thai people, so hardly any of it fits me. It sucks, but it’s better for my wallet and my backpack. It’s fun to look at everything and laugh at the different pairs of shorts so small that they wouldn’t even fit on one of my thighs.
After the market we go for a late lunch/early dinner at a Korean restaurant down the street. I realize I don’t know anything about Korean food, but Ilona does and helps me pick what to order. We order dumplings, and a beef dish which comes with 6 mini side dishes including kimchi, rice and some cooked vegetables. It’s all delicious and I stuff my face. We had passed a lot of nail salons on our way to the market, and considering that our nail beds are caked with dirt ALL the time, we decide to get a mani pedi. I swear the dirt under my nails is from scratching my skin, which is covered in mosquito bites, and has a permanent layer of dirt absorbed into it. I don’t know how else they would be this dirty all the time. The mani-pedi only costs us 300 baht ($9) each. It is so relaxing, and a good way to end our day. We go back to the hotel and sit downstairs in the restaurant for a drink before going to sleep. It’s only like 9pm, but we’re still exhausted from that train ride. We hear acoustic music coming from the bar next to us, so we go over to check it out. It’s a small bar, with a pool table and one Thai man playing guitar and singing American songs. When we walk in, he’s playing Wonderwall.
We are invited to play pool by some French guys, and I accept but warn them that I might take someone’s eye out. We play two rounds and my team wins one of them, which is a miracle because I only make one shot the entire time. The worst. Of the three French boys, two are from France and one is from Montreal. We find out that he is actually the owner of the bar, and had moved from Montreal to Thailand when he met his wife. I can’t help myself and have to try out my French, which takes some time to get rolling but eventually does come back to me. We meet some girls who speak Spanish too, and are following a very similar route to me and Ilona. By the end of the night we are all speaking in a jumble of languages that somehow makes sense to one another.
It’s a blast.